Butternut Squash & Chick Pea Soup with Quinoa Noodles

This soup rocked our weeknight meals this week.  The pureed butternut squash makes a fantastic flavorful base without being loaded up with dairy.  The celery and carrots complement the chick peas perfectly.  The only thing I might consider doing differently in the future, is adding actual chunks of butternut squash as well.

Surprisingly this soup was comprised of pantry items that I already had on hand.  I love to play soup roulette and make a soup based on already stocked items.

I have always loved the quinoa pasta as a twist in the normal pasta routine.  While my immediate family isn’t gluten-free, we do like to mix things up and stay out of food ruts.  This pasta will turn to mush if it is overcooked.  If you are not planning on eating all the soup at once, I would only add pasta into the individual serving bowls of soup.  This will prevent your soup from turning into an oatmeal consistency – which happened to my leftover container I took for lunch the following day.  

Butternut Squash & Chick Pea Soup with Quinoa Noodles

1. In a small sauce pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil, saute: 1/2 medium red onion, diced and 2 cloves minced garlic until soft.

2. In a slow cooker combine: 2 cups vegetable broth, 1 can chick peas, 1 can pureed butternut squash, 5 stalks sliced celery, 2 medium carrots peeled and sliced, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste.

3.  Cook on low for 5-6 hours or high for 3-4 hours.  Just before serving, cook 1-1/2 cups Quinoa pasta according to directions.  Add to soup, turn off heat and serve immediately.  Do NOT overcook quinoa pasta, they will disintegrate.  

North Carolina Transportation Museum + Spicy Roasted Vegetables

The past week has kept our family moving, moving, moving.  We were out of the house for a while on Saturday due to an open house.  We decided to head over to the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park for a walk on Saturday.  The weather was unbelievable – sunny and 73 degrees!

Greta enjoyed riding in her backpack and watching the re-enactors make dinner and sit around their tent encampments.

We only saw one Red Coat traipsing around the woods.

The following day, on Sunday, the weather was still warm, but more overcast.  My front garden is a riot of yellows, violets, whites, pinks, and green right now.  I am still impressed that the leftovers from my spinach and lettuce bed grew all winter long and are now in full bloom.  
On Sunday, we decided to head to the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, North Carolina.  I know, what is it with us and the museums that display all things transportation?

The train ride and round house ride were fun.  Greta kept making buzzing train noises the entire time we were there.  
Greta was dying to climb on every train we encountered.  Luckily there were a few areas where steps had been installed to allow you to climb up and look inside some of the trains.  The sheer size of these machines is impressive.  

Each view made me want to come back with my old-school 35 mm camera loaded with black and white film.  Luckily, we did have the Diana and shot a few 120 mm film.  When that gets developed I will share the images with you.

 The lighting, lines, textures…all an art teacher’s dream place to take art students.

 Of course the orange school bus caught my eye.

This building has been recently remodeled and will eventually be open to the public.  As of right now, you are only able to stand behind the chained off areas.  This room will help turn this train-themed museum into a more transportation oriented visit.  
We walked around for a couple hours and looked at all the exhibits we were able to see.  The museum is still on its way to being spectacular, but is well worth the visit.  The parking lot starts at the train depot, there are plenty of picnic tables, plenty of sites, and the historic downtown Spencer is just on the other side of the tracks.  
Greta slept the most of the hour ride home and was ready for dinner as soon as we rolled into the driveway.  Luckily, I had an easy plan for dinner – leftovers and some delicious hot and citrus flavored roasted vegetables.  It must seem like we live off roasted vegetables and well, we do.  It is just simply the way I like my vegetables.  

Goodness this was an easy Sunday evening meal.  I had the vegetables all prepped from the day before – I simply sliced them, placed them in a pan, drizzled the marinade on the top, covered, and placed in the fridge until I was ready to roast.

Spicy Roasted Vegetables

1. Quarter and then halve: 1 small or ½ of a medium head of red cabbage.  Cut into wedges: 1 small onion.  Halve and then cut into 2-inch segments: 2 large carrots.  Arrange all vegetables on rimmed baking sheet.

2. For the marinade: spray vegetables with olive oil until well-coated.  Sprinkle lemon juice, lime juice, and chipotle hot sauce.  Toss until evenly coated.  

3.  Bake at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.

Steamed Veggies & Quinoa

At the risk of sound like a snob, I have been eating quinoa long before the celebrity chefs could pronounce its name correctly.  As a child raised vegetarian, we ate plenty of quinoa.  A little background history on quinoa, courtesy of the Whole Grains Council:

  • Quinoa is also known as the mother grain and and was considered sacred by the Incas.
  • Quinoa is grown in the Andres and the harvest usually begins in March.  
  • “While no single food can supply all the essential life sustaining nutrients, quinoa comes as close as any other in the plant or animal kingdom.”  Stated by Philip White in a 1955 article on quinoa. 
  • Quinoa is referred to a pseudo-cereal because it is cooked and eaten similar to a cereal grain and has similar nutrients, however it is more closely related to beets, chard, and spinach.
  • The leaves can also be eaten. 
  • Quinoa is coated in bitter saponins that must be rinsed away before preparation.  
  • A half pound of quinoa seed can plant a full acre and create 1,200 – 2,000 pounds of new seeds each year.
  • It is drought resistant and has been named a super crop by the United Nations for its potential to feed the world’s hungry.

Quinoa is the only complete protein grain and therefore will make you feel fuller longer.  Quinoa is also gluten-free and therefore a great alternative for those with gluten intolerance.  It may be helpful for those with diabetes as well.  As far as cooking quinoa, it is usually ready within 15 minutes or less.  Always check the directions on the package though.  It comes in a variety of nice colors too – white, red, and black.

Here is my Quinoa & Steamed Vegggies. The veggies serves two, but I am always left with plenty of quinoa.  

1. Rinse quinoa.  Cook quinoa in small sauce pan.  While it simmers on low for 15 minutes, prepare veggies.

2.  Peel and two medium slice carrots.  Place in a small saucepan with just enough boiling water to cover carrots. Add fresh ground pepper and a few squirts of lemon juice.  Turn to low, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.

3.  Add frozen edamame beans.  Cover, simmer for 10 more minutes. 

I added a nice helping of Sriracha as well.  I cannot get enough of this spicy sauce as of late.  This dish is tasty warm or cold.